The Guardian (Callista Ryan Series) (54 page)

BOOK: The Guardian (Callista Ryan Series)
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“Well then why did they retreat?” Serena asked.

             
Everyone was silent at that. Serena spared a sidelong glance at Callie, which Callie didn’t acknowledge. She sipped her tea quietly, still reeling from the day’s events. She suspected that Serena might have seen the look that she and Emeric had exchanged before he’d left, but she wasn’t about to bring it up.

             
The truth was, she was as confused as anyone as to why the troops had retreated. She didn’t know if it was a coincidence that Emeric had suddenly appeared both times that she’d been injured that day. She had no idea why he had watched her as he’d called off the troops. And she wasn’t about to spout theories to Serena or anyone else that she wasn’t ready to face yet herself.

             
“Hey,” Zeke said, and Callie looked up. “Weren’t you dead at some point today?”

             
Callie nearly choked on her tea. Alex drew her nearer to him, protective as the memory resurfaced.

             
Once she was breathing correctly again, Callie shrugged. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I fell off of the falls and…I
think
I landed in the stream. But then I woke up.”

             
“I was sure she was a goner,” Zeke said with a chuckle. “I mean, no human can survive that kind of fall, right?”

             
“Actually,” Shay inserted, “it is not usually the fall itself which kills a human, but the heart attack that one has while falling.”

             
“Still, how is it that she’s completely fine, not even a broken bone?” Zeke asked.

             
Shay drew a breath to reply, and then paused. After a moment of carefully choosing her words, she said, “I have been working on a theory these past few weeks.”

             
Everyone turned to her.

             
“It began after the day in which she was injured on the island,” Shay said. “Her leg was broken, I could have sworn. And yet, it was barely fractured within an hour of my diagnosis. Even for a human in the early transitory stages of becoming a Guardian, the healing time was too fast. It was not quite as quickly as a Guardian’s would be, but it was closer to a Guardian’s pace than to a human’s.”

             
“And?” Alex asked. Callie turned to see his face. He seemed riveted by Shay’s words.

             
Shay sighed. “It isn’t impossible that she is…well, if not immortal, than incredibly hard to kill. I would even go so far as to say that she will age more slowly than a normal human, though that part of my theory has yet to be explored.”

             
“But why?” Alex asked.

             
Shay lifted a hand to gesture to Callie. “Her wings.”

             

What
?” came several replies. Shay rolled her eyes.

             
“Oh, come now,” she snapped. “You all know that the real power of our wings is not in the feathers, but in the roots of the wings themselves. I never ruled out the possibility that she possessed that small piece of our anatomy. I simply said that such a feature had stopped developing. As it is, I assume that the roots of her wings grew before the accident, and that they are what allow her to heal so quickly, to be quasi-immortal.”

             
Callie was still watching Alex, and saw a slow smile spread over his face, growing in width and exuberance.

             
“So…she’s going to be around for a while?” Serena asked, her voice dripping with distaste. Shay tipped her head to the side, and nodded.

             
“I should say so,” Shay replied.

             
Callie ignored the show that Serena made of being disappointed. She knew that Serena had saved her on the beach; the legendary blonde had given away too much.

             
However much she didn’t want to, Serena cared.

             
Besides, it was hard to pay attention to anything when Alex was beaming down at her as he was doing now, such a lively joy in his eyes that Callie was momentarily stunned by his beauty.

             
Suddenly, all Callie wanted was to be alone with Alex. The others in the room must have sensed this, because Zeke said, “Well, I think that’s our exit.”

             
He stood up and turned, reaching a hand down to help Serena to her feet. She accepted it warily.

             
“How about I see you home, ma’am?” Zeke asked, a twinkle in his eye. Serena sighed in anguish, but Callie saw the small smile that was unable to be suppressed when Zeke threw an arm around her and lead her out the door. Callie watched after them through the window as they flew, their fingers twined together.

             
Shay stood up, her expression weary. “I think I’ll be off, too. I am tired. And tomorrow will be a long day,” she said.

             
“What’s tomorrow?” Callie asked.

             
Shay frowned at her. “Tomorrow I must return to my research, of course.” She collected Callie’s tea mug as she turned to walk away. “I am now beginning to believe that it is the connection which infectious diseases bare to cancer which has been overlooked, and has prevented—“

             
“Goodnight, Shay,” Alex and Callie answered in unison.

             
Shay continued to limp from the room, muttering about academic idiots as she went. Alex grinned at Callie, and stood up, pulling her to her feet in the same motion.

             
“Come with me,” he said.

             
She didn’t protest. She would have followed him anywhere. She was so relieved that this day was finally over, and that she was back in the forest with him. Even given the day’s sadness, she couldn’t manage to feel unhappy as he led her out onto the rope bridge.

             
Crossing the bridge was easier with Alex holding her against him, his wings stretched out behind him to keep them balanced. She barely felt the scratch of the wood at her toes, or the way the bridge wavered beneath their combined weights. Whatever happened, she knew he would catch her. And she would do the same for him.

             
About halfway across the bridge, Alex tugged on her shoulders. She turned, surprised.

             
“What are we doing here?” she asked.

             
He gathered her to him, and sat down, placing her beside him. Their legs swung over the side of the bridge, the rope holding them in suspension above the hundreds of feet of empty air below. They were nestled into a lush, gorgeous section of the canopy, threatened to be drowned by large green leaves at any moment.

             
Once they were settled, he pointed outwards, squinting his eyes. “There,” he said.

             
Callie focused on the direction in which he was pointing, and saw it. There was a clearing of branches that extended from where they sat all the way to the beach, with no leaves to interrupt it. From there, Callie could see the faint purple rays of the setting moon, extending in vibrant indulgence through the sky, illuminating the stars. She gasped. It was just like the view that she’d had from the Big Ben.

             
“It’s a new day,” he said, referring to the sun which was rising behind them. She sighed, and linked her arm through his, laying her head on his shoulder. The power of that statement took a moment to sink in.

             
“Why didn’t you come to me that night?” Callie asked. “When I was leaving. I kept waiting for you to come to Shay’s cottage and say goodbye, but you never did.”

             
Alex hesitated, and then replied, “I couldn’t.”

             
“Why not?”

             
“Because if I had seen you that night….I wouldn’t have been able to let you go the next morning. It was hard enough leaving you at Emeric’s house. Had I tried to leave you again, I knew I would have failed. I practically had to chain myself to a wall to keep from going to see you.”

             
His words were laden with pent regret, a silent apology rising up between them.

             
“I know why you had to do it,” she said gently. “But don’t do it again. I don’t think I could survive without you for very long.”

             
He chuckled and buried his face into her hair, kissing the top of her head. “Trust me. The feeling is mutual. I think I might have actually wished that they would attack us that morning, before the Sirens showed up. Even those few hours without you…well, I didn’t fare well.”

             
She smiled, enjoying the feel of his breath as it sifted through her hair.

             
“What about your sister?” he asked then. “How was she when you got home?”

             
“Surprisingly well,” Callie said. “I think she’s going to be okay.”

             
“Did you tell her you were leaving again?”

             
Callie smirked. “I left her a note.”

They sat in silence for a moment, until a thought occurred to her. “Alex,” she said, drawing away a little. “What are we going to do about the
Sirens? I mean, we didn’t win. Not really. If they come back—“

             
“If they come back,” he said, “we will have a plan. Tomorrow, Zeke and I will sit down. We have already recalled the protectors in the field. We will restructure a few things, and then we will put a plan in place. We will not be so unprepared in the future.”

             
“Restructure?” she asked. “You mean….Will you be the new chief?”

             
“I don’t know, love,” he sighed, pressing her head to his shoulder once more. “I suppose we will have to wait to see what the future holds.”

             
She swallowed, so many questions surging through her mind. Quietly, she asked, “Why did he do it?”

             
Alex understood her immediately. He didn’t reply for a moment.

             
“Thousands of years ago,” he murmured, “when Milo died….Well, a lot of people thought that Emeric was to blame.”

             
“They thought he killed Milo?” Callie asked, shocked.

             
She felt Alex nod. “He was the last to see Milo alive,” he said somberly. “Milo had taken him out on a mission. To this day, I do not know what that mission was. But Emeric was the only one to come back. He wouldn’t tell anyone how Milo died, just that he was dead.”

             
“But why would he do it?” Callie asked.

             
“I am not even certain that he did,” Alex replied. “But after that day…he was a changed man. Something about him had disconnected. He had become colder.”

             
Callie pulled back when Alex stopped talking. Darkness had passed over his face. But then he shook his head, and turned his eyes to her.

             
“Whatever happened during that mission,” he said, “it took something from him.”

             
Callie swallowed, shivering in the early morning chill. She snuggled into Alex’s arms again, warding off the cool air. They looked outward together at the disappearing stars, drenched by the light of a sun which had yet to rise.

             
“So what happens now?” she asked.

             
Alex tightened his arms around her. “Now, I watch the sunrise with the woman I love,” he replied simply. “And tomorrow we rise again, and we rebuild.”

             
She leaned into him, smelling his familiar scent, the essence of the ocean and the sunlight. In that moment, she felt completely at peace, as though the rest of the world beyond that little nook of the canopy had ceased to exist.

             
“It’s a new day,” she repeated, her whisper drifting out to the tops of the forest.

             
Nothing had been settled. So much had yet to be decided, and even more to be discovered. There was a whole world to be rebuilt, and an ancient people who had to figure out the next path. Questions whispered through the treetops, floating to her on the breeze, a subtle warning.

             
But right then, as the tide rose before them, she couldn’t think of anywhere else she would rather be. And as the sun rose behind them, she knew that she was finally home.

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK: The Guardian (Callista Ryan Series)
7.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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